>> Welcome to another Authors at Google event.
I'm very excited to introduce Tyler Shores. He was a former Googler and also works on
Authors at Google program. Today, he'll be discussing his contribution to the book, "Heroes
and Philosophy," which is the first book to examine the philosophy behind the hit show
Heroes. Before Heroes, he studies another hit show, The Simpsons. At UC Berkley were
he received his undergraduate degree in English and Rhetoric, Tyler used the Simpsons as his
primary case study to teach a class on Postmodern Parody and Subjectivity in Mass Culture. If
you're like me, you'll be excited to here that Tyler has three more books coming out.
So keep watching your favorite shows, you'll definitely have an intellectual justification
for watching them. While not writing, Tyler is a project manager for the Center for Civic
Education. Please join me in welcoming Tyler Shores.
>> SHORES: All right. Well, thank you for that. It feels very nice to be back here and
also a little disorienting, I think, because I can–I can't even count the number of times
I've been on the other end of this author's talks and secretly fantasizing that, boy,
I wish, you know, one day it would be me speaking at the podium. So, here I am now and, hopefully,
I don't blow this. And I also want to say that, you know, I think it's safe to assume
I'm not anywhere near as rich and famous as pretty much anyone who has ever done an author's
talk. So I think it's okay for me to say that, like the first time I saw, you know, something
I've written on the BookShelf that Barnes and Noble ordered, it was pretty cool. I took
a picture of it and I think I may post it on Facebook because it was pretty exciting.
And I'm going to share one funny story and get down to the, like more interesting stuff
that–because it's too good of a story not to share. Apparently, a previous Authors at
Google, a guest, said during the course of his talk that women who would go on dates
with him, with it, inevitably do a Google search on him, and he remarketering, during
his talk that, oh the YouTube talk with the, you know, inevitably be one of the search
results that is, his stalkers in waiting with the, would see on there.
So, assuming there's anyone else in the world besides myself who Googles my name, I'd kind
of like to test theory so–we'll see, okay. See the sad part is I could tell jokes and
funny stories like probably the whole time but actually took notes that I can say more
on topic because the reason why I'm here of course is talk about Heroes and Philosophies.
So first of all why a book, why a book on the "Heroes and Philosophy"? And I want to
answer that question by touching briefly on some specifics and then speaking more generally.
One of the things that makes heroes specifically such an appropriate fit for a book about philosophy
is that there's a number of very philosophically interesting themes that are kind of in a woven
through the, excuse me, the course of the narrative of the show, or if not themes that
we use topics that are, you know, lend themselves very easily that philosophical reflection.
For example, you know, we have a show that is about Heroes and Villains at Core which,
you know, therefore, it leads us to questions on the nature of good and evil, which I'm
going to talk about more in a little bit. The character such as Hiro Nakamura and/or
Sylar represent good and evil in the very straight forward sense with characters like
Heroes say people and characters like Sylar who kill people. We have many other characters
in the show that are painted with much subtler with shades of gray. We have like, you know,
Nathan Petrelli and Noah Bennett who–they do make us ask this question about like, what
exactly is a hero or villain on the show? And that's one of the things for people who
followed it from season one through the upcoming season four. They've, you know, they've done
something interesting with this. The show is kind of question, just kind of moral uncertainty
of the status and some of the characters. So that's one of the philosophical, you know,
underpinnings of the show that I want us to talk about a little more. And another thing
I think that is probably worth mentioning is that philosophy is not just something that
philosophers do. The argument is that—well, I would say that philosophy is something that
we all do all of the time. It really just becomes a question not so much if we're doing
philosophy but rather, that what degree of, you know, like how cognizant are we of the
philosophy that we're already doing. When we think about the ultimate meaning of something,
whatever it is, we're doing philosophy. When we question the rightness or the wrongness
of a person's actions, we're doing philosophy. When we–we wonder to ourselves what kind
of person we are or why we find something meaningful, we're doing philosophy. So, a
book that combines a popular culture in philosophy kind of–hopefully, it will make us more aware
of the fact that philosophy is much closer to us in our everyday lives than we normally,
usually realize. So, let's talk specifically about how Heroes and Philosophy works though.
I would think that good stories and good philosophy are alike and that they carry a certain resonance,
like they touch upon certain elements of the human condition and human existence that like,
you know, they begin to take on aspects of the universal. We can't help but relate to
these things and that's, you know, one thing that Heroes is a good story, is a good show,
is inherently interesting to us in this way. There's something about Heroes and I'll talk
about this in a little more detail, but like you know, on–in almost like archetypical
level, like there are certain like, you know, like very fundamental questions that I think
we try to–we've tried really hard in the book to kind of bring out and discuss a little
more. But one of the reasons why I think Heroes and Philosophies such a cool topic is–the
whole notion of the superhero, [INDISTINCT], kind of represents our own modern day mythology
when we're really start to think about it. If you think, for instance, like of ancient
Greek and ancient Roman Mythology we have these larger than life figures. But at the
same time, we have these characters that–on the one hand we want them to be beyond the
scope of, you know, like human lamentation and human potential, but at the same time,
we want them to be deeply flub, we want them to have their own, you know, shortcomings
and then in that way we kind of see more of ourselves in these characters. So we want
them to be both above us, you know, like you know, beyond the can of human limitation but
at the same time, we don't want them to be any better than us, so that's kind of like
the–if we think about mythological figures, that is sort of in a way what, like the superhero,
[INDISTINCT], kind of does for us if you think of the help–excuse me–like any of the characters
nowadays like, you know, Spiderman or any of this other characters. You know, the other
superheroes and they have their, you know, their things that make them super but, they
certainly have things to make them very, you know, human too and that's something that
I think heroes does very well. Like we have these characters who were really supposed
to be like, you know, the promise of the show is what if ordinary people were just to wake
up with super powers one day and like, you know, it brings you through that process,
and philosophically gets kind of interesting. Hiro, Hiro Nakamura is a great character for
a number of reasons and like he fits this per–first of all, his name is Hiro. But the
second of all like, you know, just think about it for a second if you've watched the show,
he struggles to do the right thing, he struggles to like, you know, find himself and try to
like fulfill his destiny of what it is he's trying to do. That makes it inherently more
relatable to us. People in real life can be brave, they can be bold, they can be decisive
but, in real life, people are just as likely to be cowardly and indecisive and make the
wrong decisions so there's that element too. There's the fact that we want heroes who can
do the right thing but struggle to do that. The characters make for interesting drama
in the show because of these flaws. Like, there's something oddly, comforting about
valuable heroes I think. And when we imagine–I think this says something too about the way
in which we kind of imagine like our heroes fragilities, it says something about us too.
On a deeper level, we kind of want imperfect heroes. We want heroes, we don't have it easy
because we are not, we are imperfect and we don't have it easy and we see some–it's easier
for us to see more of ourselves in this kind of struggles. For those of us that have been
regular viewers of the show, that first season was appealing to me for some of these reasons
that I'm just talking about. I think season one was a very good season of, you know, television
period. The idea of taking, you know, like I said, seemingly ordinary people and like
putting them in this contexts were they have to discover that they're not as ordinary as
they thought and they have to discover that they're different than who they thought they
were. This is, you know, these are things that are not hard for us to imagine like,
you know, forget the super powers thing but it's not hard for us to imagine that we have
to, you know, we're putting a position were all of a sudden we're unfettered from our
normal context and we have to think in terms of who are we and, you know, why are we doing
these things. So there are some like interesting things, like these larger issues that I'm
talking about. But, speaking of interest, I want to talk specifically about what I wrote
in the Heroes and Philosophy volume, and the topic was on time and meaning in Nietzsche
and heroes. Time to me is such a philosophically interesting topic. I–our understanding of
time on the most like fundamental levels really does inform a lot of, who we are as people,
as human beings. Many philosophers have argued that, you know, man or woman is essentially,
a temporal being that we define our existence and/or identity in terms of time. On a less
like you know, lofty level like, we can pretty much say that we are obsessed with time. Like,
to see how this possessiveness plays out, we just need to look at, you know–like think
about for a second, like the language that we use when we're talking about time. We're
always aware of the ways in which we spend our time. When we're enjoying ourselves, we
say that we're having the time of our life. When we are disappointed with the outcome
of something, we say that was a waste of time. When we're at work, we say that we're on the
clock. When we are not at work, we say that we're taking time off or we're on vacation
time and so on and so on, you like the idea. But like time has that, like omnipresent sort
of feature on our everyday lives, just count for instance the number of ways that you can
tell time, I've got my clock, I've got my phone, I've got–there's a little time were
up here, but just think about in your home or your office, or your apartment or whatever
like the ways to tell time, the ways to measure time, or ways to be reminded of time are everywhere
on our–in on everything. So it's interesting, it's interesting to think about and, you know,
underlying that cause, it's almost like–I don't know what it's called, it almost like
in uncertainty or a feeling that if we're not paying attention to time, we're worried
that something is going to happen to us, or some–that something is going to happen to
time, so there's that–that omnipresent awareness. The only two places that you can't see reminders
of time, at least the ones that I could think of were the post office and casinos so the
places that you're wasting time the most are the places where you don't want to be reminded
of time. But anyways, that's sort of like mindfulness of time and meaning is kind of
what, where I decided to write about and that it's certainly a major theme within Heroes.
Hiro, the character, you know, his super powers, the ability to stop time and to move backwards
and forwards through time. So there's that kind of, you know, sci-fi thought problem
that we can sort of, sort of play with. There's a moment in the show when Hiro–very early,
it's like the second or third episode. He's trying to explain how his powers worked to
his friend Ando, and he said, "People think that time runs in a straight line," he draws
a straight line but he actually runs like this, in a circle. So, that is extremely significant
to me I think in terms of, when I talk about in the chapter on Nietzsche–the general premise
of Nietzsche's ideas is what he calls the eternal recurrence. That time isn't whinier,
the time doesn't necessarily run in a straight line but he wants us to think that time can
run over and over again in the fashion of like a circle. He uses his idea of the eternal
recurrence ask us to imagine that our entire life would recur over and over, and over again
in an endless loop of kind of this, you know, undifferentiated sameness. So, he ask us to
like actually think about this for a second, "What would you think like what would you
do, what would you response to this sort of situation?" It's not like this is supposed
to be something that could or would happen, but he wants to do like, think in terms of
like, you know, how you view your life? Like, you know, if everything would repeat over
and over, and over again for all eternity. It supposed to be a thought problem and the
eternal recurrence–what Nietzsche's means by this is that, everything that has happened
and is happening and will happen, will happen over and over, and over, and over again. When
we start to think about it in a minute, we're actually supposed to realize that this is
a horrible, horrible thing. In example from the show that I could illustrate this is at
the end of season two in hero–for those of you who have seen the episodes, he traps Adam
Monroe in a coffin. Adam Monroe is like the bad guy in season two but he's a person who,
you know, like his super powers is to live really long, so he's several hundred years
old. But, when you think about that for a second, being alive but stuck in a coffin
basically forever doing the same thing over and over again which is nothing, that is pretty
much the eternal recurrence in a nutshell, that's like the–the awful weightiness that
Nietzsche wants to impress upon us. It's supposed to be awful, it's supposed to be that feeling
of unmitigated, you know, lack of change and no hope of there ever being a change. So,
it's a thought problem, it's kind of a downer but that's what philosophy is sometimes. So,
Nietzsche and like I want to quote one of his works directly from the Gay Science, he
describes the situation in the following way. "There will be nothing new in it, but every
pain and every joy and every thought, and every sign, and everything and honorably small
and great in your life will have to return to you all in the same succession and sequence."
So, time and repetition are prominent themes in the first season. When you think about
the–like the tag line, for what the show first became famous for, save the cheerleaders,
save the world, I mean the basic idea behind that was that, the future mustn't repeat itself
in the present. They saw this like, you know, post-apocalyptic thing that happens, New York
City blows up, and then they're supposed to go back into the present to stop the future
from happening. So again, this time and repetition themes were very prominent in the show even
they're not necessarily spelled out in that way. So it's clear in the show why we don't
want things to happen like that, why we don't want things to repeat. We don't want New York
City to blow up, so Hiro travels back in time. But for Nietzsche he puts to us the question,
"If we could change things to be other than they were, what does that tell us about ourselves?
Why would we want to do that? Why do we want thinks to change?" And I'm going to come back
and like try to offer an explanation for the answer. But, the way when we answer this question
kind of serves as, a way of providing some sort of insight to ourselves about how we
view our lives and how we view the sort of way everything should be connected. For Nietzsche,
we understand that a single moment can be like a fundamental measure of time. We find
moments, if you think about, you know, any moment in particular, moments are so valuable
because they are so pleading and so transient. Some people spent their whole lives trying
to pursue a lost moment or waiting for a moment that never happens. But the idea of the eternal
recurrence is that, what would you–how do you feel about that moment? That, whatever
it is that you have schemed so highly, if that same thing were to happen over and over,
and over again, could you possibly like, you know, care as much about it were to repeat?
No, you couldn't, that's–by definition, it's that finitude that sense of, you know, fleetingness
that we find so valuable in which we derive the meaning and, you know, contentment from.
So, it–like, as a thought problem this idea of everything recurring over and over again
is actually a very interesting one when you start to apply it to, you know, different
moments in time and different moment from your life. There's a clear parallel I think
in this regard that Nietzsche's philosophy, any events that's unfolds in the first season
of Heroes. From the season's final–final episode which is called "How to stop an exploding
man?" The entire future does seem to hinge on this one moment when, you know, the ultimate
future that they though was going to happen, it doesn't happen and it's because of that
one thing that happens without spoiling too much people; we're interested in the show
but haven't seen it yet. And you know, basically, things are very different afterwards as results
of that. And approve that, I wasn't like making all of the stuff up. If you look closely in
one of the episodes from season three, Arthur Petrelli who's, like he's the bad guy of the
show in that season. He's actually holding a copy of one of Nietzsche's books: "Thus
Spoke Zarathustra". It's none insignificant detail, and given the stuff that cover in
the chapter on Nietzsche but, the point is, the philosophy is there if we care to look
for it. Usually the philosophy isn't quite as transparent as the character like actually
holding the book–actually it's never that obvious. Is like a character holding a book
and saying like, you know, this is the philosophy that we're talking about, but it shows that
philosophy is present in a lot of ways if we, you know, cared to look for these things
and observe like those sort of details which is nice and that's why, you know, the approach
of, you know, not only Heroes and Philosophy but, a lot of similar popular culture in philosophy
books that are, are part of the series. In the end, the reason for bringing up all this
question about time and repetition, and meaning is really just to have us consider like if
we think of things purely in terms of–oh, this is a good moment or this is a bad moment,
do we only think of things in those terms is/or sometimes can we actually see like a
larger sense of inner connection like, you know, see that one moment is actually necessary
for another moment, like that's not always an easy thing to do. There's another very
interesting moment in that first season when Hiro's future self the–like the bad ass version
of himself, was like the goatee [ph] in a ponytail and the sword and everything. He
has the string map like it's this very interesting–I forgot what he calls it other than like, like
this map of advance for like these things happen in time and he's got–oops, he's got
like strings attached to each of these things and he says like, you know, this is a map
of time and you can trace like different events and different people, and where things fell
together, where things fell apart. So, that, like it's a very fitting analogy I think for
what I'm trying to talk about in the–in the Nietzsche chapter that there is the sense
of like, you know, one single moment can be very interconnected. And a lot of times it's
impossible for us to kind of discern like, you know, how these connections happened but
it's just–like as a metaphor, I just want you to think about that image of this like
string map with all of these different things. What would your life look like if it were,
you know, like little push pins and strings, and like you connect people in events and
times, and everything together? Like I think that's a very, very appropriate way to kind
of understand what Nietzsche is talking about. So that's one of the things that, in terms
of philosophical questions that Heroes and Philosophy discusses. Another thing we should
dealt more into that I mentioned earlier is the question of good and evil. Are the heroes
really good? That doesn't really–I mean it sounds like a really obvious and banal question
but right around season three, things start to get less black and white. Heroes can become
villains and villains can sometimes become heroes before quickly turning back to villains,
so there's that kind of, you know, again like more uncertainty and then now, or rather a
nice way I think is presented in the show is the logo. I'm ripping this off from one
of my co-authors but he'll forgive me. The Heroes' logo is–in eclipse of the sun, right,
and in Plato's Republic, Plato describe the sun as basically as symbol for goodness and
knowledge, and like, you know, the intelligibility of goodness through like, you know, the light
of reason and all these things. If you think about an eclipse for instance, like the sense
of like, you know, there's something obscuring the sun, like it suppose to symbolize, could
symbolize, you know, like this sort of like moral, uncertainty and ambiguity that happens
in the show. So, it's a very fitting metaphor I think. Without getting to, I think college
electuary for everyone, there–I would just quickly say there are a number of ways that
philosophers have kind of dealt with this issue of, you know, good and evil, and like
in a ways which has been conceptualized. Socrates, for one felt that evil was basically, simply
resulting of insufficient knowledge that, you know, like everyone–anyone who really
understood what it meant to be good and to do good, would do good. Like evil and badness,
and more of wrongness was really just, you know, insufficient and understanding of what
good really was, that was Socrates'–that's a thumbnail sketch what Socrates, you know,
felt was the, kind of the moral philosophy there. So, you know, evil wasn't so much evil
in the sake of evil but it was the, the results of the imperfect knowledge. Nietzsche and
another one of this were is called Beyond Good and Evil, asks us to think about why
we think of good and evil the way we do. And what he means by that is maybe definitions
of good and evil are as set as we think they are. He asks us just for the sake of argument
to consider a time when maybe evil meant then what good means now, that there is this inversion
of swords between terms. Maybe there could be an evolution from like, you know, like
what–he's asking us to consider what exactly is the goodness of good and the evilness of
evil. One of the things that he talks about without getting into too much more detail
about this was the, Nietzsche suggest that good and evil could possibly have started
from just like, you know, this means of differentiation that good and evil without any sort of like
moral evaluation would just simply be a way of saying, you know, goodness and evilness
could have been a term of like, you know, me-ness and you-ness. I call myself good,
therefore I call you bad because you're not me. So in a very like simple like, you know,
kindergarten level, like we understand intuitively why that could have been the way things were.
In season one, to kind of pick up the theme again of like more on uncertainty and sort
of like these shades of gray. There's a very sort of Watchmen like plot for anyone that
seen the movie or the, read the graphic noble by Alan Moore, which again like I said results
and the blowing up in New York City. There are a few people who know that this is going
to happen but they choose not to do something about it. The moral justification is that
they're uniting humanity against the common threat and that's very Machiavellian sort
of–and to justify the means. And, at one point, one of the character says, "People
need hope but they trust fear" so this idea, and one of the episodes that's really good
and really kind of chilling and creepy is called .07%, and the idea is that .07% of
the human population is an unacceptable lost until I can ensure against like, greater like
you know catastrophe. So this idea that you blow up New York City and your, you know,
letting this many people to get blown up but and then, you know, they are going to go to
that spoiling episode that they're saving more lives in the process like for the future.
It's good, it's a really good episode and again, like the first season is–it touches
on like a whole slew; very philosophically interesting theories were all making for very
good drama I think. Interesting questions in moral ambiguity that, for me, that shows
you know narrative threat the first three seasons. And there's a difference I think
between moral ambiguity which is what I've been talking about and moral compromises.
That's another thing that one of the chapters in the book talks about Noah Bennett, who's
the horn-rimmed glasses guy. He does some pretty terrible things, including like torture
and murder, in the service of what he says, he's protecting his family which, you know,
like if you follow his character like, you know, that's very important to him is like,
you know, being a good father but it is a compromise. He's sacrificing some things like,
you know, like killing people and torturing people if it means protecting the people he
cares about the most. Angela Petrelli, justifies lighting–New York get blown up for the simple
reason that she considers it a greater good that's going to result in a better future
for everyone. Nathan Petrelli who's the son of Angela suggests that super power people's,
like, concentration camps would be a good idea. It would be a good thing to protect
everyone else from themselves. So there's this question that's a very politically freighted
argument obviously that liberty can be exchanged for security. So there's, you know, there's
a very interesting issues here, and on the one hand, some of these examples–some of
these are very whacked out examples. Some of them are not as whacked out as others which
make them disturbingly close to home. What this has to do with us, however, is this notion
again of like moral compromise is not unfamiliar to us in our every day lives. Maybe not these
specific instances but we understand intuitively what we, you know, we make trade offs in small
decisions where we're deciding one set of moral values for another, and that's inevitable,
that's what we do in life whether we realize it or not. Heroes is also interesting to us.
One of the things, the reason for that is, in this book–and again, I'll talk about these
kind of shades of gray, this is kind of like ambiguity between dark and light, black and
white, is that we take for granted this like black and white, these things between heroes
and villains, and good and bad. One of these moral sorts of question which I think is kind
of a neat one is: What effect do superpowers have on society? You know, it's kind of a
silly question but it does like, you know, it has intellectual merit I think because
if you think about, and we're not even talking about super powers anymore. How would you
act when you could do things that no one else could do and no one would be able to stop
you? Asking this kind of questions get some of the nature of morality, were we no longer
to have like the traditional suicidal checks of like, you know, discipline and punishment
and this sort of things. Then all are really is at that point is this moral obligation
to do what we think is right or what we think is wrong. What would that look like in the
world of Heroes? There's an episode were they talk about this, but the idea that I'm kind
of hinting out here in short, is the idea of another philosopher, John Locke, not the
Lost character but the 17th century British Philosopher and his idea of the social contract.
The social contract basically says that, you know, Locke means to say, "We live in an orderly
society for a certain reasons." We have certain rules which we obey because in turn, you know,
we get protection from being innocent in our society, we're not killing everyone and stealing
each other all the time, that's the balance [ph]. You're sacrificing some amount of personal
freedom in order to get like the larger protection and the larger benefits of being part of a
society. Thomas Hobbes talks about this issue in his state of nature which is very similar
to this idea of the–the outcome of which is the social contract. Where Heroes comes
in, I mean just for the sake of argument is what happens to the society when, you know,
let's say, what happens to the society and its rules when people–some people were no
longer need that, that protection or no longer have those rules of the society apply to them.
If such people like, you know, where do exist, like how they would exist, you know, forget
super power for a second but just think. If they didn't need society in the way that the
rest of us need society like, you know, would or should, I mean for there, you know, from
their personal standpoint, will they need to abide by the same rules that we do? It
gets in the questions, in a criminal justice and all these other things. But philosophers
like Hobbes and Locke, you know, when they speak about society, they bring up the fact,
the premises of the society is like there's a need for it. There's a need for society
because we are really more equal than, you know, sometimes we care to realize or care
to admit as like, you know, living human beings. In one episode of the show which is called
I Am Become Death, I think this is the fourth episode of the third season, and it's really
one of the neater episodes of the show. A super power formula kind of–is distributed
through in this kind of like alternate scenario and in effect everyone get super powers. And,
essentially, what happens, the result of this is just a very dark future for everyone. Power
for everyone is much more a blessing than a curse–at least, that's the thesis that
that episode is sort of putting out there. Many of us have heard the often-used quote
which is from Lord Acton that power tends to corrupt–power tends to corrupt; absolute
power corrupts absolutely. And this seems to be, you know, kind of the case that, you
know, Heroes is, you know, suggesting in some of these episodes, similar episodes to the
one I just talked about. But power without the sort of like moral checks and balances
that society ensures is an extremely dangerous thing. Some of us would adhere to a moral
code just because that's the way we are and some of us would not, it's like, if this were
to be the case. Some of us would do whatever it is we wanted to do simply for the fact
that, you know, we could do it and get away with it. But it says something about like–you
know, these are questions of human nature and these are questions about, you know, why
society is important and why society functions the way it is. So, again, like the–the idea
here is that there are interesting scenarios. Like, they seem very, you know, farfetched
sometimes. When we start to actually think about it, we can see some of these issues
and like, you know, it causes us, like, you know, hopefully it causes us to reflect on
some of these deeper things. Speaking of ethics and this question of right and wrong, there's
one more topic I want to talk about in terms of Heroes before we kind of open it up to
questions and everything. Really, like, I think devotees of the history of the show
will probably be familiar with this. This is the question of Heroes as a show and the
question of originality. People have said in, like, you know, in the past that, "Oh,
the plot for Heroes is like, you know, the issue of Uncanny X-Men number 143," where,
like, you know, there's, like, dystopian, like, you know, history where–excuse me,
not history–future, alternate future were everyone dies and then someone has to go back
in time to save them. I mean if you follow the first, like, you know, first, second and
third season of the show, like, you know, yeah, that kind of is the show in a nutshell.
Like there is this, like, you know, premise that is very much like, you know, other comic
book plots that have been done before Heroes. On the one hand–so the issue that we're getting
at is again like creativity versus originality here. Many people have wondered why there
are so many similarities between Heroes and the X-Men. This is one of the chapters of
the book and it's kind of fun chapter to read. Many of the powers in the show are similar
to X-Men. Claire's healing powers are like Wolverine's healing deal. There's like a guy
who, you know, controls metal like Magneto does. There's Sylar's like, you know, power-stealing
thing just like Rogue from the X-Men. It goes on and on and on. So we can also argue–and,
like, this is the other side of the coin–that old stories can be told and retold in different
ways and possibly new and illuminating ways, and, you know, such is the nature of stories.
They're told and told again and perhaps something is added or something is taken away. So, this
question about originality and, like, you know, whether this is, you know, like a form
of plagiarism or something, like on one level, like a very, like, a basic functional level
is interesting and, like, you know, I'll be honest, I wouldn't be happy if someone, like,
took my ideas in writing and, like, passed it off as their own which, you know, is nowadays
what they call academic writing–I'm just kidding. The question is not that straightforward
though. It's actually more than like, you know, when we get past this later of like,
oh, this is just a rip-off of the X-Men, we start to really think about deeper issues
and one of the things that the chapter talks about is this question of epistemic responsibility
which is–it's a fancy way of saying, like, you know, do we–what responsibility do we
have to know things, like to have knowledge and to, like, you know, be more knowledgeable
about things that we should know about. So, you know, example, like if you're writing
a show on superheroes, should you know something about the superhero genre. If you're creating
a show like Heroes, does that–does it seem a little disingenuous to say, like, I don't
read comic books because I'd be worried that someone had already thought of my own ideas
and I don't want to know that. That's not exactly what the show's creator Tim Kring
said, but it's kind of close. So that's his argument. I mean, it's interesting without
getting into too much of the specifics of it, but this idea again of like epistemic
responsibility is sort of like what responsibility do we have to know about the things that we
care about. Like, you know, these are difficult issues to answer especially when there is
no clear-cut answer like this. You can certainly argue one way or another but, on a deeper
level, like, you know, and this is–it becomes a very personal question is, you know, like,
to what extent do you feel responsible for the knowledge that you have or don't have.
Again, this is like where the philosophy part of the show comes in. So I suppose the last
example kind of indicates that, you know, this whole question of like creativity and
originality, it indicates towards that challenges that comic book heroes and villains kind of
confront, and how that sort of represents the real-life problems that we have, like,
you know, we deal with in our everyday lives. The moral decisions that comic book characters
confront regarding their superpowers are not all that dissimilar from my own struggles
to kind of, you know, make the right moral decisions in a world that we wish were a little
more black and white. The more we can relate to the shortcomings of, you know, this sort
of characters, like I've said, the more we can perhaps relate to this larger than life
figures because they represent, you know, the best part of ourselves. That's the idea,
like, I think, the appeal behind Heroes and hence why we enjoy stories about them. You
know, again, to take this back to the idea of like modern mythology, and why we keep,
you know, repeating these patterns whether it's like, you know, through, you know, ancient
Greek and Roman figures, or dating back before those characters or, like, you know, in modern
day. The last point I wanted to make before we kind of open up to questions is that, you
know, philosophy isn't something that, you know, just began in a book, although it certainly
is in this book which is available on bookstores and Amazon now. But, like, the idea is that,
philosophy is something that can be found everywhere if we know what it is we're looking
for. So the approach of the book is that once we know to, you know, look for these sorts
of philosophical things, we can start thinking philosophically and, you know, for a lack
of a better way to put it, like, you know, the–like when you no longer have that television
show as a point of reference for being into philosophy at that point, maybe you're so
interested in philosophy that you start, you know, like, looking for those things, you
know, in other aspects of your life. So that's more or less what I wanted to talk about.
I want to ask a few questions because what's really interesting to me besides, you know,
hearing myself talk which I really do like very much; but I do want to ask you guys also,
you know, some questions that–you know, like, we're curious about what you think about some
of the stuff we've written. So I'll stop talking in a minute, but let me just ask these questions,
you know, that you can either answer now or just think about them like, you know, if you're
at home watching this, like, think about this question as like the last thing that you hear
from this talk. The first one is that since I've offered suggestions about how the show
can be philosophically interesting, I'm kind of curious of, like, the fans of the show,
what is it about the show that's interesting? Like for me, the show is interesting because,
you know, it's entertaining and I thought the first season was, you know, very interesting
from a narrative and, like, you know, a philosophical standpoint but, you know, why is it that we
find the show like Heroes interesting? Like, what is it? You know, if it's a simple answer
like, you know, such and such character is cute or if it's something like, you know,
like if there are other, you know, like underlying things, it's worth stopping to think about
every once in a while. The other question and some more general question is that–one
of the things I said at the beginning was that philosophy is something that's eminently
relatable. This book is kind of an example of that. What are people's conceptions of
philosophy? I'm especially interested for people like, you know, who maybe like haven't
had much experience with the subject matter or like really are like outsiders looking
in. Like, I kind of want to know, what does philosophy–what does the word philosophy
mean to those people? Like, I've heard it, you know, used in a lot of different ways
but I'm curious. So I'd ask just, like, you know, think about those things, think about
those, like, two questions and that's all I have to talk about. And yes, if you have
any questions, let me know. Thanks. >> Well, I mean when I think of Heroes and
Nietzsche in the same, you know, area–the first thing that comes to mind for me is Nietzsche's
whole philosophy of the Ubermensch. So my question for you would be: Which character
do you think would be Nietzsche's favorite–like most characteristic of the Ubermensch, or
at least his least unfavorite? >> SHORES: Okay.
>> I mean, and a few characteristics and the reasons why.
>> SHORES: Okay. Yeah, I like that question a lot actually. I think, you know, and it's–I'm
prefacing it by saying, you know, here's what I think Nietzsche would think but, like, you
know, the idea for other people who are curious about Nietzsche's concept of Ubermensch basically
is that this is an individual who has sort of gone beyond, like, you know, like the normal
standards of ethics and morality, and it sort of, like, almost like evolves into a different,
like, ethical being, someone who's like, you know, is self-creating and therefore like,
doesn't have to listen of what other people, you know, like tell them who's right and wrong,
but is actually creating those values for themselves. So, like, potentially, it sounds
very good. Like in theory, it sounds very good. In practice, sometimes, it's not quite
so simple. So, you know, the question about like which character might exemplify like,
you know, the Ubermensch, like, you know, Sylar is a good example. Sylar, like, you
know, he's the superpower, like, you know, serial killer guy who slices people's, like,
brains open and kills them to take their powers. But, you know, he is an interesting character,
like not, you know, like, beside the stuff that he does, but like his rationale for doing
that. At one point he says, you know, that like normal rule shouldn't apply to him because
he is like the next stage in evolution. Like, you know, for X-Men fans, like that's pretty
much like their thing. They called mutants which are the people, the superpowers, like
Homo sapiens superior. So there is this idea that mutants aren't like, you know, some genetic,
like, you know, whatever like a blip on the radar screen but they're supposed to be like
the next stage in human evolution. So Sylar is supposed to represent, at least in his
own mind, that sort of like stage and like, you know, moral evolution–why should, you
know, like, those kind of, you know, this like old human morality like apply to him
if he represent something else. Like, another further example would be like for those of
us that aren't vegetarians–I'm not but, you know, I understand the argument here that,
you know, like, if you think about what Sylar does and he's like killing these people to
like, you know, provide nourishment to him, it's not that dissimilar from like, you know,
how vegetarians argue, Peter Singer, like, you know, his ethics on animal care and these
sort of things, that, like, you know, we don't apply the same human rules about killing other
people than we do to killing other animals. Like, they are living things. Why don't we
think about that? So, like, the idea is that Sylar, you know, is basically applying that
like thought process that he sees other normal people who aren't like him as, like you know,
animals, like a cow. So like I'll treat you the same way that, you know, I treat a cow
that I wanted a hamburger from. That's like Sylar's kind of like, you know, like moral
standpoint. And the other question about–I don't–I have to think about that one. Like,
which would be Nietzsche's like least favorite character?
>> The least favorite. >> SHORES: Oh, okay. It would have to be–that's
a tough one. Like, I don't know if it's the best answer but my guess would be like, you
know, Noah Bennet, who is the horn-rimmed glasses guy, like, I mentioned some of his
things and his, like, moral certainty, but he's sort of acting on and just sort of like,
almost self-deluded kind of, you know, like kick here or, you know, I'm doing bad things
but I'm doing them for the purpose of like, you know, some other good thing. But is that,
like, you know, really the reason or you just actually like killing and torturing other
people and this is like a convenient sort of like, you know, like, you know, story to
spin on yourself. So there's that angle, like, you know, it could fit within like, you know,
Nietzsche's world view. I don't know if it's perfect but it's an interesting question.
It's a good way to like, you know, think about like some of these characters and how they
relate to the show and the philosophy so… >> I have two questions.
>> SHORES: Okay. >> So my first one is–so I love watching
Heroes because when I watch each episode, I kind of reflect on, you know, myself and
kind of what you asked. What would you do in that scenario? And I kind of see bits of
myself in, you know, every character. And, sometimes, I wonder if because I'm reflecting
on my sense of self through the framework of the Hollywood writer, if that sense of
self is somehow perverted or less legitimate or shallower than, say, you know, a sense
of self I developed from a book. So I just think it's very interesting because, you know,
I watch more TV now than I read a book and, you know, a lot of my ideas probably come
from the media, and I wonder if the book kind of reflects on how our views of the world
and ourselves change with media. That's my first question.
>> SHORES: Okay. I think I could answer that one because I like that question. I think–the
first thing I thought of was that, you know, yes, there are–there's no one writer that's
like, you know, you're getting your world view from if you're like, you know, reflecting
on these things in the show. Like, you know, there's a lot of, you know, like hands on
the pot for the creative process. Especially, now, having done the book process, it's not
that dissimilar. Like, you know, you got editors and you have like publishers who sort of,
like, you know, are changing things. Your translators too who like–you know, translation
is a big deal too. It's like, you know, a single word can change like the entire thrust
of like an entire like, you know, passage or an entire book even. So there are those
decisions and there are decision makers in that process, so I don't know. Like, you know,
I guess–because I'm going to be a–you know, I still think of myself as a lit person, like
a literature person. Like, yeah, I'm sort of biased towards books just because, like,
they, you know, it gives you more time to reflect on certain things and it's a slower
pace. That's all I'm advocating in terms of like books as a way to like, you know, derive
like that sense of self, but it's not–books and television aren't that different sometimes–not
always–and, in fact, not all shows everywhere for all time but, like, you know, there are
certain TV shows that, again, like I said, they carry a certain resonance because like
television shows are still stories. Like, books are stories and they like, you know,
they cause us to reflect on, like, you know, certain issues. So it's kind of–like that's
my–does that answer the question? >> Yes, I liked that answer.
>> SHORES: Okay. All right. >> And my second question is if you can tell
us a little bit more about the three books that are coming out and which shows should
we be aware of? >> SHORES: Okay. Let's see. Well, the first
one is–I don't think it's a secret now so I can just say the–the first one, it's coming
out I think in December or, I don't know, my publicists can, you know, like, correct
me if I'm wrong, the Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy which is going to be kind of a
cool one. So it's based on the book by Lewis Carroll. But, of course, Alice in Wonderland
is now being made into a movie by Disney. Tim Burton's directing it and it's going to
be kind of this, like, you know, this new different take on Alice in Wonderland which,
you know, looks potentially very interesting. So, that's one book that's coming out, you
know, at the end of the year and then following that one right afterwards is one of my favorite
shows of all time, Arrested Development and Philosophy, and that one's coming out earlier
next year. But it's–that's a very smart show. Like, it's funny and I wish that, you know,
people–more people would, you know, watch it and it would still be on air right now.
But Arrested Development is also coming out with a movie and, you know, it's–not un-coincidentally,
this book is coinciding with their release of the movie so that people can get re-interested
in the show in like different ways. And the most recent one which I'm still writing right
now is 30 Rock and Philosophy which another show that I like very much, not just because
I love Tina Fey, which I want, in YouTube, I want people to know that but, like, also
because the show is like very clever, like, you know, from a narrative standpoint, from
like a construction of like, you know, stories and things like that. Like, it is a very good
show and it, like, it deals with a lot of topics not, you know, in a very–it's a comedy
for one thing but it deals with a lot of very interesting topics like Heroes does. So, like,
the philosophy again is there if you know how to look for it. So those are the three
for now. >> Just to debate possibly your choice of
the Ubermensch character, I think you should also take into consideration on Nietzsche's
ideas about magnanimity and how the Ubermensch, even though he is all powerful, well, at least
in the sense of creating his own values, he does not need to express his power by destroying
others unlike people who are weaker and the way that they feel that they can–you know,
the only course of showing–the only option of showing their power is by destroying other
people. So, that's really all I have to say. >> SHORES: Okay. No, I agree with it. Can
I ask you a question? Just out of curiosity, like, which characters do you think like,
you know, would be your choice for like the Ubermensch or the–oh, okay. All right. Fair
enough. But you can read the book and kind of like get a good, like, jumping start on
that. But no, you're right about the–it's good to point out that like aspect of the
Ubermensch too which–Ubermensch, like, you know, like roughly translated is like "over
man." So it's this idea again, like, we've been talking about, like, you know, mutants
and Homo sapiens superior, it's that idea that this is somehow someone who has like
evolved to, like, you know, over like, you know, what normal, like, you know, man–human
morality is. So, yeah, I don't really have anything to add to what you said other than
you're right and I agree, and I think it's an interesting way to, like, you know, keep
thinking about the–like the tie-in between Nietzsche and the show.
>> Hey, Tyler, thanks for coming. >> SHORES: Yeah, thanks.
>> I have a question about the statement you made from Socrates that evil is just another
way of saying misinformed. Why do you think it is then that all of the evil characters
are positioned as more intelligent or more informed?
>> SHORES: That's… >> They're always sort of the CEOs of the
evil companies or the masterminds and the good people are always sort of bumbling around
and not–and unaware. >> SHORES: No, that's a good question. Like,
I was actually thinking about that while I was talking about it and there was more I
wanted to say. So, like, I'm glad you brought that up, which is I think there is a difference
between, like, you know, not necessarily like ignorance or like lack of knowledge so much
as moral ignorance. Moral ignorance is a different thing. Like, it's this idea. And, like you
know, like you've mentioned, like the show is, like the villains of the show, the people
who are doing the worse things, like always seem to be in this position where like, you
know, it seems like they do know better, like they are the decision makers. Like the original,
the company which is kind of like this–I don't know what it's called–like, you know,
the CIA type of–no, that's not right. Like, just like a, you know, secret group of, you
know, superpower people who are–who decided that they're going to be making the decisions
that, like, are going to be secretly shaping society. So they've decided that because they
have powers, all of a sudden, they have like this sort of moral certitude as well and,
like, you know. And at some point in the first season, they're kind of talking about it that,
you know, this group of people, it was great for awhile. It was like the super-friends.
Like, you know, they're doing all this things that was–that were right and good, and then
somewhere along the way, you know, it's–things started to gray. Like, you know, people started
to lose their way and then things got really bad and then, like, you know, now, it became
this in-fighting sort of thing between, you know, like the people who think they know
right versus the people that, you know, like, they think they know right. So…
>> So maybe it's just a shift of moral framework from greater good and smaller good. I mean,
if they're doing what they think is right in the greater good sense, in the smaller
good sense such as blowing up New York City, not so good.
>> SHORES: Yeah, I mean, yeah, not so good. It's kind of like, you know, again, the thing
I keep thinking about is that, you know, the people who do the worst are the ones that
think they're doing the best good. Like, that's sort of–you know, that's interesting from
the whole point of the show. It's like it says something about like, you know, the sort
of like moral, like, you know, blindness that sometimes we have. We feel that we're really
right about something. Like, it should be a cautionary tale. "Cautionary Tales" is one
of the names of the episodes. So like these are, like, you know, things that Heroes wants
us to be aware of, like, you know, when we're, you know, like when we get past the point
of just enjoying it, it's like a dramatic tension sort of thing. Like, we understand
it from this point of view. Like, you know, how can–like I certainly have, like, you
know, how can we wonder to ourselves, how can we not wonder to ourselves like you know,
how can I be so wrong about something that I feel so right about? Like that's kind of
the, like the thing that many of those characters have. Many usually get to that point of asking
that question but, you know, I feel like that's, you know, something that, if at least, you
know, if we take that away from the show, like, you know, at least, we're slightly in
a better position for having seen that. Is that kind of your…
>> Last point I want to make is it's nice to have a show that makes it so gray because
I wonder if in real life, it is as gray. I mean when you think about overseas tyrants,
pirates, scammers, I'd say a large percentage of the amount of evil that's done in the world
is done knowingly and not from this sort of morally gray characters that think they're
doing right but aren't. I don't think that kind of conflict exists in real life. It's
a creation or fabrication of… >> SHORES: No, your right. That's also why,
like, you know, it's fiction at the end of the day, right? So, like, you know, fiction
is kind of comforting in that sense where, like, you know, we want to believe that people,
like, you know, bad people do struggle, you know, with things. We want to believe that
it's like, you know, it's sometimes black and white or there is gray. But, yeah, sometimes,
you know, bad people are just bad people in real life but, like, you know, it's–the whole
idea of the show is that you want to believe that there's this, you know, like this chance
that bad people can be stopped and bad people can be recognized and, you know, like pointed
out as villains, and in real life, it doesn't always work that way so…
>> Thanks. >> SHORES: All right. So we're out of time.
So thank you again for everyone for your attention.

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